On 10 May 2022, Prince Charles opened Parliament and delivered the Queen’s Speech, in the first time that the Queen has not delivered the address since 1963.
The speech, which sets out the priorities and legislation that the Government intends to pass in the 2022-23 Parliamentary session, outlined details of 38 Bills. Full details of all the Bills in the Speech can be found here.
In its inaugural Westminster Watch series of client alerts, DLA Piper’s UK government affairs team provides short summaries of the key pieces of legislation clients should be aware of. All of the Bills below fall under the overarching UK government aim of “Growing the Economy to Address the Cost of Living”.
Boris Johnson has described “levelling up” the country as one of the defining missions of his premiership, but the phrase has been criticised as being elastic, if not illusive It was only in February 2022 that the Government published the Levelling Up White Paper, providing further details on the Government’s 12 missions and four objectives to spread opportunity more equally across the regions and nations of the United Kingdom.
The Queen’s Speech promises a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The legislation will impose a duty on the Government to set up the 12 levelling missions and produce an annual report on delivery against those missions. The Bill will also introduce changes to the planning system to further prioritise the environmental impact in planning decisions, to provide for more of the financial value created by development to be captured by a levy benefitting local communities and to simplify and standardise the process for producing local plans.
The Government will also introduce a UK Infrastructure Bank Bill to establish the UK Infrastructure Bank in legislation, with objectives to support economic growth and the delivery of net zero. The Bank will have a financial capacity of GBP22 billion to achieve these objectives.
A Transport Bill will seek to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers across the country. The Bill will establish a new statutory body, Great British Railways, which will be responsible for overseeing most rail transport in the country. Great British Railways will assume contracting powers and will introduce new passenger service contracts focused on punctuality and reliability.
The Transport Bill will also enable innovation in transport, improving safety and providing new choices for the public, whilst attracting investment to the UK. It will provide for the installation of more electric vehicle charge points throughout the UK as part of the transition away from new petrol and diesel car and van sales by 2030 and thereby build public confidence to switch to zero emission vehicles.
The Government committed in its April 2022 Energy Security Strategy to build a more secure, home growth energy system which both meets the UK’s international commitments on climate change and is affordable. The Energy Security Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech will enable the extension of the energy price cap beyond 2023 and strengthen the regulatory framework for carbon capture and storage and low carbon hydrogen to facilitate the growth of those markets.
Data Reform Bill
The Government explains the need for this Bill as follows:
“The UK General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018 are highly complex and prescriptive pieces of legislation. They encourage excessive paperwork, and create burdens on businesses with little benefit to citizens. Because we have left the EU, we now have the opportunity to reform the data protection framework. This Bill will reduce burdens on businesses as well as provide clarity to researchers on how best to use personal data.”
The Bill will also
- Modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office, making sure it has the capabilities and powers to take stronger action against organisations who breach data rules while requiring it to be more accountable to Parliament and the public.
- Increase industry participation in Smart Data Schemes, which will give citizens and small businesses more control of their data. The Bill will also help those who need health care treatments, by helping improve appropriate access to data in health and social care contexts.
The Government will introduce a number of Bills targeting various aspects of the housing market, including social housing, renters' reform and leasehold reform. These include:
- A Social Housing Regulation Bill will be introduced to tackle poor quality social housing. This Bill will look to ensure that social housing is safe by making it easier monitor how landlords are performing to increase accountability and enable swift compliant resolution.
- A Renters' Reform Bill which will abolish the use of "no fault evictions”, providing security for tenants in the private rented sector. Landlords will be given greater powers to gain possession of their property through the courts for repeated rent arrears and anti-social behaviour.
The Government will publish a draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill. The draft Bill will tackle so-called ‘subscription traps’ by requiring businesses to provide clearer information and send reminders before a contract auto-renews, prohibit the commission, provision and hosting of fake reviews, and give the Competition and Markets Authority greater powers to enforce consumer law and issue penalties. The CMA’s new Digital markets Unit will also be empowered to designate certain firms with Strategic Market Status upon which enforceable rules and obligations will be imposed.
The Queen’s Speech also announced a Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, which is intended to protect consumers from cyber-attacks by requiring that smart devices meet tougher security standards and ensuring that product security requirements are regularly updated.
Post-Brexit Regulatory Reform
The Government will introduce a Brexit Freedoms Bill to ensure that retained EU law can be quickly amended, repealed or replaced with legislation that better suits the UK without the need for primary legislation. This Bill will also remove the supremacy of retained EU law as it still applies in the UK.
A post-Brexit Procurement Bill will be introduced with the aim of creating a procurement regime that is tailored to the UK’s needs, is more modern, innovative, and less bureaucratic. The Procurement Bill will put principles such as value for money, the public good, transparency, integrity, efficiency, fair treatment of suppliers and non-discrimination on a statutory basis. It will simplify the current legislation into a streamlined regulatory framework with the goal of diversifying and raising the standard of the supplier base and having regard to wider economic, social and environmental outcomes of procurement.
Visit our UK Government Blog page for further analysis and comment on procurement reform, including a forthcoming update following the Queen’s Speech, here.
The Financial Services and Markets Bill will remove EU retained law on financial services and replace it with domestic legislation. There will be a revision to the statutory mandate of financial service regulators to ensure that they focus on growth and international competitiveness.
The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act was introduced to Parliament on 1 March 2022 and received Royal Assent on 15 March. Fast-tracked as part of the Government’s response to the Ukraine conflict, that legislation established a public register of the beneficial owners of overseas entities that own property or land in the UK as well as making changes to the unexplained wealth order regime and amending the processing for designating sanctions targets in the UK.
During the passage of that legislation, Ministers promised a further economic crime bill later in 2022. The Queen’s Speech confirmed that the Government will bring forward an Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, which will introduce reforms to the remit and powers of Companies House, impose greater transparency requirements on limited partnerships, create new powers for law enforcement agencies to seize and recover crypto assets and facilitate greater information sharing to detect and prevent economic crime.
The Government will also introduce a Bill of Rights to “end the abuse of the human rights framework and restore some common sense to our justice system.” The main elements of the Bill are:
- Establishing the primacy of UK case law, clarifying there is no requirement to follow the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and that UK Courts cannot interpret rights in a more expansive manner than the Strasbourg Court.
- Ensuring that UK courts “can no longer alter legislation contrary to its ordinary meaning and constraining the ability of the UK courts to impose ‘positive obligations’ on our public services without proper democratic oversight by restricting the scope for judicial legislation.”
Opposition parties and some critics of the Prime Minister within the Conservative Party have suggested that there is little in the legislative proposals which helps ease the cost-of-living crisis. Ian Blackford MP, the leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster suggested that “Instead of tackling the Tory cost of living crisis and focusing on the people’s priorities, Boris Johnson set out measures for a race to the bottom in standards through the Brexit Freedoms Bill”.
The Labour Party has also highlighted the absence of an Employment Bill in the legislative programme. The Government had first suggested in the 2019 Queen’s Speech that it would introduce legislation to bring in a single enforcement body for UK employment law, default flexible working rights, rights for staff to retain tips and greater protections against pregnancy discrimination.
In response, the Government has confirmed there will be no emergency budget to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
This is a broad legislative programme that will have wide-ranging and significant impacts on numerous commercial sectors in the UK. DLA Piper’s Global Trade and Regulatory Affairs team combines a diverse group of legal and political experts and regularly advises clients on parliamentary and public policy, post-Brexit strategy, and government affairs support. With our full service and global capabilities, we can help you navigate these coming reforms and identify potential opportunities. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Paul or Daniel below.